I remember dashing down to what was then a Virgin Megastore in Leeds one Monday during my time at uni in Leeds in order to grab one of the limited edition 7” pressings of ‘Freakin’ Out’, a marvellous power-punk single from Graham Coxon’s fifth solo album, ‘Happiness In Magazines’. The rough cardboard sleeve and garish artwork impressed but it wasn’t until I put it on the turntable, turned it up really very loud and started pogoing round the room that its position as one of my all time favourite bits of vinyl was assured. I soon stopped pogoing, by the way; a man of my size combined with a wooden floor do not a happy stylus-groove situation make.
And so vinyl has gone on to dominate my relationship with Coxon’s solo output. Although I owned the early albums on CD, it wasn’t until vinyl copies entered the collection that I really took them seriously and, similarly, it wasn’t until my double vinyl pressing of ‘The Spinning Top’ arrived that its standing in my collection was awarded. Having said that, I’d had the chance to hear it a little way ahead of release and duly loaded it onto the iPod and then left it for a bit. One Saturday evening, feeling full of cold and ensconced within more pillows than I thought we owned, I stopped scrolling at this album and set it going. When it came to a close, almost seventy minutes later, I was a little shocked to realise how well it had held my attention. For the next couple of days, I played little else. By the time the vinyl arrived, I already knew the album inside out and yet I was still ludicrously excited to play it.
What music it contains. Grizzly Graham is still there on ‘Sorrow’s Army’, sweetly innocent Graham pops up on ‘Feel Alright’ but new and improved folksy Graham steals the show. ‘Look Into The Light’ rightly won comparisons with Nick Drake, ‘In The Morning’ is an epic thing of gentle beauty which is pretty bloody splendid from the off but completely slaps you around the face when it starts properly noodling about around the five minute mark.
It’s a remarkably effective left turn after the commercial sound of the final two EMI albums and the lo-fi approach to the four before those. It is Coxon’s masterpiece, I’d wager, and while it received little attention due to the media frenzy over the return of his old day job it was one of the stand out releases of 2009.